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Background. The political debate on cannabis policy is often more based on opinions than on evidence. However, evidence-based knowledge is required to design effective cannabis policy. Method. A review of the scientific literature on cannabis policy and its consequences was conducted, focusing on three issues: (1) the difference between formal policy and actual implementation; (2) the effect of policy on prevalence of cannabis use; and (3) the consequences of cannabis policy for users and society. Results. (1) Local authorities, police departments and regional courts differ in how they implement cannabis policy, and implementation typically deviates considerably from the formal policy; (2) The limited available evidence favors the hypothesis that policy and prevalence of cannabis use are not strongly connected. However, there is hardly any literature focusing on the consequences of cannabis policy as implemented; (3) Although in-depth studies are scarce, cannabis policy seems to have negative side-effects for cannabis arrestees well beyond the direct consequences of their arrest. They have, for example, more difficulties finding a job because they have a criminal record. Conclusions. The evidentiary basis for cannabis policy is rather narrow. The study includes an agenda for further research on cannabis policy.

Table of Contents

  • Part I

    Context of the Study

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Research Methodology

  • Chapter Three

    Context of Cannabis Policy

  • Part II

    Results of the Literature Review

  • Chapter Four

    Implementation of Cannabis Policy

  • Chapter Five

    Cannabis Policy and Prevalance

  • Chapter Six

    Cannabis Policy and Social Consequences

  • Part III

    Discussion and Recommendations

  • Chapter Seven

    Discussion and Recommendations

  • Annex A

    Original Analytical Framework

  • Annex B

    Actor Perspectives in Future Research on the Consequences of Different Cannabis Policy Implementation Regime

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports by RAND Europe.

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